Somewhere There Is A River
The woman split the clearest water I had ever seen
and it forgave her, closing the break behind
her kicks in a stitch of bubbles. Her eyes
were wide. In the submerged sunlight,
their dark hue gleamed, and the brilliance
allowed it. Transfixed,
I cut that photo from my parents’ magazine,
taped it to my bedroom wall
because I longed for that river that hid nothing
to permit me, as well–to promise
that I, too, might someday glimpse
what waited in the deep,
to make peace with its silence,
its smooth stones.
Stroke and scissor would take me down;
I would cease to fret
the interval to air. My custody would be
shared between water and sky.
Instead I have stalled years on the banks
of the only river I know, fingertips testing murk,
a stipple of twigs and dead leaves. That muddy
glass gives back only umber: a face shattered
in wind, eyes straining through ripples
for a bottom I suspect but cannot see.
You drift toward me, then away from me
like a boat upon a sea I made myself, pulled
by a moon I painted with a white-dipped thumb.
This wave, I think, will wash you in, will break
with you on the shell-mottled beach—but the next
drags you back in an undertow that seems
as it tugs and tosses us in its black roil
something like the scowl of God, or some
villain who looks exactly like him.
I cannot save this canvas, cannot paint over
what I have already painted myself inside—
there, on that coastline of sharp and slice—there
again in those gray crests licking over and over
like a gluttonous mouth. The paints that would make it
new wash away in repetitions of salt. The boat pushes in,
pushes in, to a lonely cove but never scrapes sand.
That naked woman you see in the waves
is forever drowning.
Melanie McCabe is the author of three poetry collections, The Night Divers, What The Neighbors Know and History of the Body, as well as a memoir, His Other Life: Searching For My Father, His First Wife, and Tennessee Williams.
Her essays and poems have appeared widely, including in The Washington Post, The Georgia Review, The Cincinnati Review, Shenandoah, and Diode Poetry Journal.